Foresight Update 21
A publication of the Foresight Institute
Physicist on the Nanometer Age
Need to Prepare for 'Tremendous Changes'
Rohrer, who will serve on the Selection Committee for
Foresight's Feynman Prize this year, shared the 1986 Nobel Prize
in Physics for his role in the invention of the scanning
tunneling microscope, capable of imaging and moving individual
atoms. His paper at a physics conference in Italy on
"The Nanometer Age: Challenge and Chance" presents
his view of a future with nanomachines, and the need to prepare
society for the coming changes:
"The new players in the emerging nano-world are individual,
selected objects of the size of some 50 nm down to molecules and
atoms. The new aspect of science and technology on the nanometer
scale is that these objects are treated as individuals, not as
ensemble members. To a great extent, this requires real-space
methods. Local probe methods, such as scanning tunneling
microscopy (STM) and its derivatives, are therefore a key to the
nano-world. Major challenges of the new nanometer world are to
interface the macroscopic world to the nano-individuals, to
exploit the new possibilities which arise from nanometer
dimensions, to establish new concepts for working with very large
numbers of nano-individuals and large sets of controls
parameters, to create the basis for broad interdisciplinarity,
and to prepare society for the tremendous changes anticipated in
a nanometer world."
Dr. Rohrer then looks at the next 20 years of miniaturization:
"the challenge will be to develop new types of
elements...the investment into new technologies versus
anticipated possible return will be a central problem."
After 20 years, "miniaturization, the division into ever
smaller blocks, will come to an end...Supra-molecular chemistry
might eventually provide the functional elements for the assembly
scenario in the post-miniaturization period."
Computational methods will be important: "Numerical
approaches have taken a similar development like that of
chemistry, from atoms and small molecules to ever larger
nano-objects. They will be of great importance in understanding
properties, functions, and processes on the nanometer
In the nanometer age, "parallel operation will become the
norm, and assembly and self-organization will replace
miniaturization procedures. Progress after miniaturization will
be based on increased complexity. A promising route could be the
assembly of molecular-sized functional elements into complex
Dr. Rohrer discusses advanced uses of proximal probes for
information storage, then comments, "However, even more
exciting might be the prospects of creating sophisticated and
complex nano-structures and nano-machines by manipulation and
modification. Such nano-machines would be used for specific
experiments or could perform specific tasks that cannot be
reasonably executed or are even impossible by other means."
As to how these would be constructed, "Local probe methods
appear indispensable in the exploratory stage of the nano-world.
Once standard, however, fabrication of nano-machines and their
control might be achieved by other means."
In his conclusion, Dr. Rohrer points out the prospect of great
change and the need for care in handling it: "Being able to
handle condensed matter on an atom-by-atom basis opens tremendous
perspectives, but also fears. Both engender the wish for
controlling science. The destiny of society, however, lies in the
proper use of science, not in its control."
For the complete text of Dr. Rohrer's paper, in English, see
Il Nuovo Cimento, Vol. 107A, No. 7, pp 989-1000.
Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology
[Editor's note: For additional information about the
conference, see the conference
archive web site and Update #23.]
November 9-11, 1995
Palo Alto, California
Assembling the 21st Century today
Sponsor: Foresight Institute
Caltech Materials and Process Simulation Center
USC Molecular Robotics Lab
Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
Apple Computer, Inc.
Molecular manufacturing Enterprises, Inc.
This conference is a meeting of scientists and technologists
working in fields leading toward molecular nanotechnology:
thorough three-dimensional structural control of materials and
devices at the molecular level. The conference will cover topics
relevant to the pursuit of molecular control, drawing from fields
- supramolecular chemistry and self assembly
- proximal probes (e.g. STM, AFM)
- biochemistry and protein engineering
- computational chemistry and molecular modeling
- computer science (e.g. computational models, system
- natural molecular machines (e.g. flagellar motor,
- materials science
- mechanical engineering (CAD) and robotics
- many others
Developments in these fields are converging, opening
opportunities for fruitful collaboration in developing new
instruments, devices, and capabilities.
Topics and invited speakers include:
- Donald Brenner, N. Carolina State Univ.
- Simulated Engineering of Nanostructures
- Richard Colton, NRL
- Tip Surface Interactions
- Eric Drexler, Institute for Molecular Manufacturing
- Directions in Nanotechnology
- William A. Goddard III, Caltech
- Computational Chemistry and Nanotechnology
- Tracy Handel, UC Berkeley
- Protein Design
- Adm. David Jeremiah, USN (Ret.), Tech. Strategies and
- Nanotechnology and Global Security
- Ralph Merkle, Xerox PARC
- Design Considerations for an Assembler
- Charles Musgrave, MIT
- Chemical Synthesis of Nanomachinery
- Aristides Requicha, USC
- Molecular Robotics
- Richard Smalley, Rice University
- Nanotechnology at Rice Fraser
- J. Fraser Stoddart, University of Birmingham
- The Art and Science of Self-assembling Molecular Machines
The 1995 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology (and accompanying
$10,000 award) will be presented at the meeting to the researcher
whose recent work has most advanced the development of molecular
information is available from the Foresight Institute, or
here on the Web.
Leading vendors will demonstrate products useful in the
pursuit of molecular control, including molecular modeling
software and hardware, and proximal probe systems (e.g. STM).
Call for Papers
Contributions on relevant topics are solicited for
presentation in lecture or poster format. Potential contributors
are asked to submit an abstract (200-400 words), including names,
addresses, telephone and fax numbers of the author(s), email
address, and an indication of whether oral or poster presentation
is preferred. Papers of both kinds will be reviewed for
publication. Authors will be encouraged to make their papers
available electronically, and accepted preprints will be
published on the Web. In choosing papers, priority will be given
to (1) cogent descriptions of the state of the art in techniques
relevant to the construction of complex molecular systems, (2)
well-grounded proposals for multidisciplinary efforts which, if
funded and pursued, could substantially advance the state of the
art, and (3) reports of recent relevant research.
Publication of Proceedings
Proceedings of the conference will be refereed and published
in a special issue of the international journal Nanotechnology
and later in book form.
Abstracts due June 30, 1995
Notification of acceptance August 1, 1995
Manuscripts due October 15, 1995
Abstracts should be directed to the Foresight Institute at the
The registration fee includes the scientific program,
Wednesday evening reception, Thursday and Friday luncheons, and a
copy of the proceedings journal issue. (Student and one-day rates
do not include proceedings.) Amounts over $100 are tax-deductible
as a charitable contribution.
postmarked: by Sept. 1 after Sept. 1
Regular $350 $400
governmental $275 $325
Student $100 $125
One day (specify day) $135 $160
For registration forms or further information, contact
Foresight Institute, Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA; tel.
415-324-2490; fax 415-324-2497; email firstname.lastname@example.org .
Corporate Sponsors: Apple, MMEI
Two major sponsors have already signed on to participate in
the Fourth Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology:
Apple Computer, Inc.,
which has sponsored this series frequently in the past, will
again take a prominent role at the meeting. From the company's
early days, its products have supported the nanotechnology effort
in all roles: technical research, communications, database, and
graphics. Much of the molecular modeling work is performed on
Apple computers, and will be demoed at the meeting.
Enterprises, Inc, has joined as a first-time sponsor.
MMEI is a seed capital firm specializing in ventures leading to
the development of molecular nanotechnology. Advisors include
Roald Hoffman (1981 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry) and Ralph Merkle
(computational nanotechnologist at Xerox PARC). Principals will
be at the meeting to discuss possible new ventures.
for Submissions: 1995 Feynman Prize
sponsored by the Foresight Institute
A prize in the amount of $10,000 will be awarded to the
researcher whose recent work has most advanced the development of
molecular nanotechnology. The prize will be given at the Fourth
Foresight Conference on Molecular Nanotechnology (see article this issue). Young
researchers are particularly encouraged to apply.
Submissions consist of one or more of the following, in English:
- an approved thesis or dissertation (bachelor's, master's,
- an article published in a refereed journal
- a paper approved for publication in a refereed journal
In addition, each submission must include a one-page summary
of the work and its relevance to the goal of molecular
nanotechnology and/or molecular manufacturing. (If the journal
article submitted has multiple authors, the applicant's role in
the research must be stated.) Summaries may be up to 400 words in
Research areas considered relevant to molecular nanotechnology
and molecular manufacturing include but are not limited to:
supramolecular chemistry and self assembly, proximal probes (e.g.
STM, AFM), biochemistry and protein engineering, computational
chemistry and molecular modeling, natural molecular machines
(e.g. flagellar motor, ribosome), materials science.
Both experimental and theoretical work are eligible. Special
consideration will be given to submissions clearly leading toward
the construction of a general-purpose molecular assembler.
Applicants wishing further information on the field of the prize
are referred to the book Nanosystems:
Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation
(Wiley Interscience, 1992), or see our book order form.
The previous Selection Committee, for the 1993 Prize, included:
- Masakazu Aono, Aono Atomcraft Project; Chief Scientist,
- Robert Birge, Syracuse University professor, chemistry
and molecular electronics
- K. Eric Drexler, Senior Research Fellow, Institute for
Molecular Manufacturing and Chairman, Foresight Institute
- Stig Hagstrom, Chancellor of the Swedish University
- Tracy Handel, Du Pont, protein science (now at UC
- Arthur Kantrowitz, Dartmouth College, professor of
engineering, and Advisor, Foresight Institute
- Ralph Merkle, Computational Nanotechnology Project, Xerox
Palo Alto Research Center
- Marvin Minsky, MIT Media Lab professor, and Advisor,
- Kary Mullis, winner of 1993 Nobel and inventor of PCR
method in molecular genetics
- Jane Richardson, Duke University, professor, protein
- Hiroyuki Sasabe, Head of Laboratory for Nano-Photonics
Materials, RIKEN Institute, Japan.
Submissions should be mailed to the Foresight Institute at the
postal address below, to arrive by September 1, 1995. One copy of
the paper or thesis and five copies of the one-page summary are
required. The summary must include the applicant's address,
telephone, and (if possible) fax number and email address.
Finalists may be contacted for additional information. The
prizewinner must be present at the conference to accept the
For further information, contact the Foresight Institute at PO
Box 61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306, USA. Tel 415-324-2490, Fax
415-324-2497, Email email@example.com,
Web page about the Feynman
Eric Drexler spoke on nanotechnology at the MIT Media Lab and
at Polaroid on March 15; the next day he, Foresight Advisor
Marvin Minsky, and Feynman Prize winner Charles Musgrave met with
Boston-area Senior Associates.
The Miles Lectures at Cornell University were delivered on April
10-12 by J. Fraser Stoddart, professor of organic chemistry at
the University of Birmingham, UK. Titles were "Self-Assembly
in Chemical Systems," "Nanochemistry: Whither and
Thither Molecular Machines," and "Towards
Leonard Adleman of USC spoke at MIT on his DNA computing
technique on April 10. (Note: this technique is sometimes
referred to as "molecular computing." Foresight members
knowledgeable in computer science may want to investigate this
technique enough to understand why it is not a general-purpose
computation technique, such as is usually meant by the word
"computer.") Further information is available via ftp
at ftp.cs.princeton.edu: ftp://ftp.cs.princeton.edu/pub/people/rjl/bio.ps
or via ftp at usc.edu: ftp://ftp.usc.edu/pub/csinfo/papers/adleman/molecular_computer.ps.
To join The Molecular Computation mailing list, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Advanced Technologies session at the Space Studies
Institute's International Conference on Space Manufacturing (May
4-7) was chaired by dual Senior Associate Steven C. Vetter of
Molecular Manufacturing Enterprises, Inc. Three of the four
papers in this session dealt with applying molecular
nanotechnology to developing space. The audience included top
people from several aerospace companies and space programs, many
of whom had not had much previous exposure to nanotechnology
A computer search using on the word nanotechnology shows an
increasing number of mentions in US Congressional testimony.
Those mentioning nanotechnology have included Siegfried Hecker,
Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory; Ron Brown, Secretary
of Commerce; Scott Pace of RAND Corporation; John Petersen of
Arlington Institute; and (covered in previous Updates) Eric
Drexler of Foresight and IMM.
to Action: Foresight Web Enhancement Project
by K. Eric Drexler
Those of you who've
read Engines of Creation
will remember the goal of hypertext publishing  and its importance to our
chances of a successful transition to nanotechnology. There's now
a way for Foresight members to make a difference in constructing
this vital tool.
The Internet's World Wide Web is a partial hypertext system,
letting readers follow an author's pointers to past documents. To
give effective support to critical discussion  on topics of public interest
such as nanotechnology, however, it must show links into a
document made by readers and later authors: it needs backlinks.
Authors cannot be expected to insert links that display
criticisms or refutations of their Web documents. With backlinks,
hypertext can become a dialog - more enduring than speech, more
interactive than print, and better connected than anything we've
had before. It can help us deal with world-wide issues.
Foresight's goal is to get the required features incorporated
into Web standards. To accomplish this, we will write public
domain code which implements them, run this code on our server
and as many others as will participate, and use the resulting
system for critical discussion of an issue important to the safe
and widespread deployment of nanotechnology: computer security.
In parallel with the technical work, Web documents will be
uploaded onto our server with some links already in place, so
that when the software is ready it will have a body of documents
to operate on. Critical discussion on computer security issues
will begin, with backlinks and filtering done by hand, prior to
completion of our software.
We are now looking for funders for the Web Enhancement Project.
We are also interested in talking with those having influence on
Web standards, both the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and
commercial server software providers.
Budget for initial stage
We anticipate (at this point, guess) that a first useful
version can be produced in nine months on a budget of
$100,000. Individual and corporate donations of funds are
solicited. Foresight Institute is a nonprofit public foundation;
donations are tax-deductible in the U.S.
Call to Action
In the last issue, I wrote that my estimate of when
nanotechnology will arrive has moved up. Time is passing quickly;
we need to begin high-quality critical discussion of
nanotechnology policy issues today, if not sooner. Based on my
experience to date, I find it hard to imagine succeeding in this
task without an adequate hypertext publishing system. Now, with
the rise of the Web, we can build an adequate system by making a
modest addition to an existing standard. To maximize our chances
of a successful transition to nanotechnology, we need this tool,
and we need it now. I ask those of you who can to step forward
now and help us make this happen.
To contribute, send donations to Foresight Institute, PO Box
61058, Palo Alto, CA 94306. For donations of $500 or more,
contact Chris Peterson, tel 415-917-1122, fax
415-917-1123, email email@example.com.
1. "The Network
of Knowledge," chapter 14 of Engines of Creation
by K. Eric Drexler (Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1986). The Notes give
Publishing and the Evolution of Knowledge" by K. Eric
Drexler, Social Intelligence Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 87-120.
Reprints available from Foresight.
In technical terms, our goal is to implement extrinsic,
bidirectional, sub-document-level links among Web documents on
our server and (later) cooperating servers (see Definitions below). One
constraint on the project is that it produce server software
compatible with common Web browsers.
Software will be written in C++ to work in conjunction with an
existing http daemon (i.e. Web server software running on a UNIX
computer) to enable the following of backlinks. The software will
initially run on a single server and operate only on documents
stored on that server; later it will function with any
Original documents, in standard HTML, will be stored unchanged on
the server. Our software will store backlink information for
these documents in a database. When a user invokes a document's
URL, our software will integrate the original HTML and the
backlink information, so that the user sees the backlinks in
The first version will make links only to anchors that have
already been placed by the original author of the document.
Separately from the Web enhancement software, Foresight may add
additional anchors to all documents on the server, to enable
fine-grained linking even at the initial stage.
Technical goals for later stages:
- Support of documents on non-cooperating servers (with
warning of edits, but without sophisticated connectivity
- Support of filtering (using Web forms to gather
information on links from the link author).
- Fine-grained linking to the phrase or word level, if not
- Readers' evaluation data (gathered by Web forms from
readers) to use in filtering.
- Better connectivity through edits (e.g. links to obsolete
wording can be appended to the end of the current
- Forward links:
- Links from a document pointing onward to another
document. For example, if document A comments on document
B, a forward link in A points to B. Forward links are
already standard on the Web.
- Backward links:
- Links appearing in a document that have been inserted,
usually by someone other than the author, pointing from
that document to another. For example, if document A
comments on document B, a backward link visible in B
points to document A. Today, only forward links can be
made on the Web; no corresponding backward link appears.
Readers can see only links made by the original author.
- Bi-directional links:
- Links that work both forward and backward.
- Extrinsic links:
- Links that can be made visible from a document without
the document-author's cooperation. These are needed for
critical discussion, since we cannot expect all authors
to go out of their way to attach critical comments to
their own documents.
- Cooperating servers:
- Web servers running our (or compatible) software.
- Selective display of links based on reader-selected
criteria (e.g. links to criticisms only).
- Hypertext markup language used to format information for
- Address of a document on the Web, enabling a reader to
retrieve that document.
- Embedded marker enabling authors to link to a specific
part of a Web document.
From Foresight Update 21, originally
published 1 June 1995.